Monday, August 17, 2009

Visiting Comic Book Locations in the Real World

I live in Japan, right? Right! One thing that really delights me living here is my ability to visit specific locations from movies I've seen (Lost in Translation or Battle Royale, for example) or books I've read (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, After Dark and Shogun to name a few). I'm not a huge anime or manga fan, but it thrills me to ride the shinkansen or visit a mountainside and see sights similar to the backgrounds in Miyazaki Hayao's movies. Whenever I'm at the famous Shibuya scramble just outside the station's Hachiko Exit and glance over at the Shibuya 109 building, it feels as though I'm walking through an issue of Nana.

It also helps when I run into girls who dress a lot like the punk Nana herself. That happens more than you might imagine! Or at least it seems to, because Nana-girls tend to stand out in the crowd in this place where almost every young woman dresses a bit like Hachi. Any given day in Japan, no matter how mundane, is like taking an otaku pilgrimage.

Peter Payne writes a bit about this concept on his J-List Side Blog. He's probably forgotten more about this stuff than I'll ever know!

As a young comic book fan, I knew Superman's Metropolis and Batman's Gotham City didn't exist. But Spider-Man's ostensibly real New York City seemed every bit as fantastic or fabulous. I never expected to go there, and I still haven't.

So the Micronauts series gave me a bit of a thrill when an early storyline took the characters to Florida and the Kennedy Space Center; I'd actually been to those places so their stories came vibrantly to life for me, and by extension, so did the rest of the Marvel Universe. Now I live in a place that seemed even more Oz- or Wonderland-like to me as a child, when I knew it only from Speed Racer, Ultraman, Space Giants, the Chris Claremont/Frank Miller Wolverine miniseries and the occasional Sonny Chiba movie. Also Pink Lady and Jeff... but that's another story for another blog.

My current comic geek goals are Nana-related. I want to find the general locale where Nana and Hachi lived in their sunny apartment 707 and to eat a Jackson Burger at Jackson Hole, even if the restaurant has a new location. If you're a Marvel Universe fan, you should take a trip to New York and check it out. Make an otaku or geek pilgrimage. Because Peter Payne is right-- visiting the actual locations where the characters live out their fictional adventures adds a layer of realism to your favorite manga, anime or even American comic book.

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